Birthplace and Nationality

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Scope of Inquiry.— The columns of the census schedule appropriated to this enquiry were designed to shew for every person:—

  1. If born in the United Kingdom, the county and town or parish of birth;
  2. If born outside the United Kingdom, the country and the state/province or district of birth;
  3. Whether born at sea.

Persons born outside the United Kingdom were asked to state whether "visitor" to or "resident" in this country, and persons born in foreign countries were further asked to state their nationality, e.g. British born, Naturalized British Subject, French, German, Russian, etc.

The information thus required was similar in almost every way to that obtained at the Census of 1911, but in its subsequent treatment, the results of which have been published in Tables 21 and 22 of the County volumes, in Tables 45-53 of the General Tables Volume and Table 7 of the volume devoted to occupation statistics, two variations are to be observed. In the first place, with the view of reducing the cost of the census tabulation—a course which was imposed upon the census authorities after the census had been taken and which necessitated modifications in the previously arranged scheme of operations—it was decided not to carry the birthplace classification beyond the country of birth, that is to say to disregard all the degree of detail in the birthplace statement below that of the country. As a result natives of Great Britain or Ireland, who form a preponderatingly large majority (nearly 98 per cent.) of the total population, are classified in five divisions only instead of by individual counties or towns of birth. It has thus been necessary to forego all information regarding the trend of internal migration which would have been afforded by the more elaborate classification and which was one of the features discussed in the Census Report for 1911. On the other hand, information regarding aliens has been expanded by their classification not only by country of birth but also by country of nationality with the object of securing more reliable data in regard to the nationalities of aliens than has hitherto been available in the census returns.

Summary of Birthplaces.— From the summarised extract given below it will be seen, that of the total population of England and Wales, just over 98 per cent. were born in these two countries. Of the two countries separately, 95.1 per cent. of the enumerated population of England were born in England and 80.2 per cent. of the enumerated population of Wales were born in Wales. Very nearly 2 per cent. of the total population of England and Wales were born in the remainder of the British Islands (viz., in Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man and Channel Islands), just over per cent. in other British Dominions, Colonies, etc., 7 /8 th per cent. in Foreign Countries or at sea. In rather more than per cent. of the returns the statement of birthplace was omitted and these are shewn separately throughout the tables.

The number of females born outside England and Wales is slightly in excess of the corresponding number of males but in relation to the total populations of each sex the male proportion is rather higher. Of persons born in Scotland, Ireland, and in the British Dominions, Colonies, etc., females are, as a rule, the more numerous, Northern Ireland differs from the Irish Free State in this respect and is an exception to the rule, but not sufficiently so to give females a preponderance in relation to the total sex populations. Amongst natives of the Isle of Man and Channel Islands enumerated in this country the excess of females is greater than in the total population of England and Wales but in respect of the population born in foreign countries the converse holds good, males preponderating both in number and proportion.

The proportion of native born to total population shews a small increase over the corresponding figure of 1911, the significance of which lies not so much in its amount as in the fact that it has occurred in a section of the population which preponderates to the extent of forming more than 95 per cent. of the whole and in which therefore there is little room for further expansion. Comparison with years earlier than 1911 cannot be made exactly owing to the omission of a separate statement of the "not stated" cases in those years, but with some allowance for this difference in treatment, it would appear that the present proportion of native born is higher than any recorded in the tables. The considerable addition to the numbers and proportion of persons born in British Dominions, Colonies, etc., is also a feature of the recent enumeration, accelerating, as it does, the progressive increases recorded in. this section for many preceding decades.


The Scottish born are numerically greater but proportionately lower than they were in 1911, and the Irish born, who shewed a continuous diminution between 1861 and 1911, have declined still further in 1921 though they are still in excess of the Scottish born both in numbers and proportion. The proportion of persons born in foreign countries which had risen steadily up to 1901, and had not sensibly altered in 1911 when it was 1,036 per 100,000 total population, shews the greatest change in the table, the proportion having declined to 867 in the past 10 years. The several proportions are more fully set out in the following table:—


Natives of Scotland and Ireland.— In the distribution of the Scottish and Irish born among the population enumerated in England and Wales, the counties adjacent to, or having direct communication with, the countries concerned usually return the highest proportions. Outside the influence due to geographical proximity, the social and commercial significance of the county of London appears to have attraction to the natives of each of these countries, for the proportions here are well above the average particularly in the western metropolitan boroughs. This condition extends, more in respect of the Scottish than the Irish born, to several of the large suburban areas outside the metropolitan boundary in the counties of Middlesex and Surrey. Of other counties with a proportion of immigrants from Scotland and Ireland above the average, Hampshire is the most noteworthy. The Irish are the more prominent here and they are also proportionately numerous in the adjacent south-west counties of Dorset and Devon. The administrative countries and large towns which contained the largest numbers of persons of Scottish and Irish birth in proportion to their total populations in 1921 were as follows:—



Persons Born in British Dominions, Colonies and Dependencies.— The total number of persons born in British Dominions, Colonies and Dependencies outside the British Islands and enumerated in England and Wales was 204,466 of whom 98,352 were males and 106 114 females. This represents an increase of 42,964 over the number returned in 1911. The proportion to the total population has risen steadily since 1851 when it was 18.8 per 10,000, to 44.8 in 1911 with a further increase to 54.0 in 1921. Of the 1921 total of 204,466, 16,036 described themselves as visitors to this country, an increase of more than 10,000 over the comparable figure of 6,032 in 1911.

The distribution of the colonial born by country of birth together with the variation in the several numbers since 1911 is as follows:—


In regard to their distribution within this country, several types of concentration are observable in table 47 of the General Tables. In prominent port areas like Southampton, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Cardiff, Gillingham, South Shields Birkenhead and Wallasey, the proportions are high and it will be observed that the male element tends to predominate in these areas owing, no doubt, to the presence of seamen and others associated with the shipping industry. University centres, Oxford and Cambridge, and residential and health resorts like Bath, Canterbury, Bournemouth Eastbourne, Hastings, Brighton rank high in the order of preference a. do many of the better-to-do areas in London and the home counties. Other than these the table generally indicates that the Southern counties are more generally favoured than those of the Midlands or the North.

The counties and large towns with the highest proportions of colonial born are as follows:—


Persons Born in Foreign Countries or At Sea.— The foreign born population is analysed in detail in Table 22 of the county series of publications, and, for the country as a whole, in Table 46 of the General Tables Volume, while statistics of the ages and marital conditions of aliens are also given in the General Tables Volume and of their occupations in the Occupations Volume. In respect of a few county areas where the number of aliens was in excess of 5,000 (viz., Essex, Kent, Lancashire, London, Middlesex, Surrey, Yorkshire and Glamorgan) local statistics as to ages, marital conditions and occupations are also shewn in the appropriate county volumes.

The following table shews that, following a continuous increase from 1851 to 1911 in the number of persons born in foreign countries and enumerated in England and Wales, the number has declined in the past decennium by as much as 12.0 per cent., and now stands at 328,641 or 8.7 per thousand of the total population as compared with 10.4 per thousand in 1911 and 1901. The decrease in the total foreign born is compounded, as will be seen, of a comparatively large increase in the number of British subjects born abroad and a very much larger decrease both in the number and proportion of aliens.


(1) British Subjects Born in Foreign Countries. —The British Subjects born in foreign countries; more than 98 per cent. of whom were returned as residents in this country, numbered 100,375 in 1921 as compared with 88,686 in 1911 so that there has been an increase in this class of 11,689 or 13.2 per cent. during the ten years The numbers claiming British nationality by birth and by naturalization respectively were 52,596, and 47,779, but in respect of these, separate intercensal comparisons are not possible owing to a change in the classification of women of foreign nationality who have married British husbands and have acquired a British status by marriage These, in 1911, were treated as "British by parentage," whereas in 1921 in the absence of a separate category for the class, they have been regarded as more akin to those who, originally alien, have acquired British nationality as the result of a definite personal act, and have been included as such with those classified as British by naturalization.

In the distribution throughout this country of foreign born persons of British nationality, which is similar in some respects to the distribution of those born in the Dominions, Colonies, etc., London takes a prominent place with a proportion in relation to its total population more than double that of the country at large. In the City and in 20 out of the 28 Metropolitan Boroughs the proportions are above normal and reach the exceptional figures of 246 and 174 per 10,000 males and females respectively in Hampstead. The Home Counties of Middlesex, Surrey, Kent and Hertfordshire, the southern counties of Sussex, Cornwall and Hampshire, and also Berkshire and Oxfordshire are the only others where for the county as a whole the proportions are in excess of the general average. In individual administrative areas outside the County of London, the greatest concentrations are generally to be found within the suburban towns in the neighbourhood of the Metropolis, in port areas, in some of the more popular seaside resorts particularly on the south coast, in the university towns of Oxford and Cambridge and in a limited number of inland industrial towns like Leeds, Manchester and Salford. The large towns with the highest proportions are given in the following table.


(2) British Subjects by Birth. —Of the 52,596 persons returned as British by birth 23,518 were males and 29,078 females, representing 0.13 and 0.15 per cent. of the total population of each sex in this country.

Foreign countries in America were returned as the birthplaces of 25,427 of the total, the United States accounting for by far the largest number contributed by any single country, viz. 18,441, or more than one-third of the whole. From Argentina, Brazil and Chile the numbers were 2,421, 1,466 and 1,295 respectively. The principal countries contributing to the 21,697 persons of European birth were in order France 6,841, Russia 3,244, Germany 2,772, Belgium 1,441 Italy 1,249 and Spain 1,126 Other than these China, 2,590, was the only country returning a total in excess of 1,000.

(3) British Subjects by Naturalization. —The 47,779 persons classified as naturalized British subjects include 19,718 males and 28,061 females representing 0.11 and 0.14 per cent. of the total population of each sex. The larger proportion of females in this group is due to the inclusion therein of women who have obtained British nationality by marriage, a class for which there is no parallel in the male section. Regarding their origin, the distribution according to country of birth resembles the corresponding distribution of aliens; a large majority—41,143 or 86.1 per cent. of the total—were born in Europe, the principal contributing countries being, in order, Russia (10,583), Germany (7,517) and Poland (6,745). From France and Belgium the numbers were 5,213 and 1,582, the women from these countries outnumbering the men in a ratio of more than 4 to 1, and from Switzerland 1,326 were returned, the female preponderance being high in this case also. The only country of origin outside Europe worthy of note is that of the United States of America which accounted for 5,319, the female to male ratio being again in the neighbourhood of 4 to 1.

(4) Foreign Born Persons of Alien and Unstated Nationality. —Of the 228,266 persons born in foreign countries who did not claim specifically to be of British nationality either by birth, by marriage (in the case of women); or by naturalization, 181,983 gave particulars of their actual nationalities and in 46,283 cases the information was omitted from the returns.

At previous censuses, with the exception of 1891, foreign born persons of unstated nationality with distinctly British surnames (natives of the United States excepted) were classified as British subjects. Too much significance, however, cannot be attached to the surname of an individual in this country, as it can be altered practically at will and it was felt that, in view of the excitement of public feeling regarding the status of aliens during and immediately after the war, the use of the surname as a criterion of nationality would be more than usually unreliable in 1921. It is quite possible that, instead of the naturalized British subjects being understated by the exclusion there from of a number of persons who failed to state their nationality, they may have been overstated in the claiming of British nationality by foreign born persons not entitled thereto. It is to be noted, however, that the present treatment departs in this connection from the more generally established census practice, though the loss of comparability occasioned thereby is believed not to be material.

As stated on an earlier page an attempt has been made on this occasion to provide two classifications of the alien population within this country, one by the country of birth and one by nationality, and these are shewn side by side in the principal tables dealing with this subject. The alternative distributions in respect of those for whom the full details are available are given for the whole country in Table LXIII and the distribution by country of birth of those who omitted the statement of nationality is also shewn in adjacent columns.

As might have been anticipated, the comparable distributions by birthplace and by nationality are very similar in general respects. Nationality as a rule follows that of the country in which birth takes place and for the bulk of the foreigners in this country birthplace and nationality are synonymous. Recent political changes appear to have made little difference in this respect, the territorial rearrangements having been accompanied apparently by corresponding changes in nationality, c.f:— Austria, Hungary, Czecho Slovakia, etc. The largest differences between nationals and natives disclosed by the table occur in respect of Russia and Poland where a considerable excess of nationals in the former appears to be complemented by an almost equally large excess of natives in the latter. In respect of the United States of America there is an excess of nationals for which the cosmopolitan character of that population, derived by continuous and heavy immigration from other countries of the world, may offer an adequate explanation, and in respect of the European countries, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Switzerland the slight excess of nationals may perhaps be associated with the acquirement of neutral nationality by a number of aliens in this country during the late war. Except in regard to Russia and Poland, the differences are not important and though the provision of the nationality distribution may serve a useful purpose in shewing how far it differs from the corresponding birthplace distribution and to what extent therefore a tabulation by birthplace alone—as in 1911 and earlier censuses for example —may be accepted as equivalent to a distribution by nationality, it is a little doubtful whether our statistical knowledge of aliens in the country has been greatly extended by the specific tabulation by nationality owing to the fact that so large a number of persons, who should have returned the information, failed to do so. It was anticipated that the nationality question would give rise to difficulty either in respect of interpretation or even of willingness to answer the question, and in the result it is found that the defections in this respect amount to between 14 and 15 per cent. of the total foreign born, whereas in respect of birthplace, a more definite and perhaps less compromising fact in each person's life history, the replies were tolerably complete—the number of returns omitted or insufficient for tabulation being considerably less than 1 per cent. of the total. In view of this it was deemed desirable to depart from the original intention of classifying the age and occupation statistics of aliens by nationality and to substitute therefor a distribution by the more complete and reliable statement of country of birth, persons of unstated nationality being included with those of foreign nationality.


Of the 181,983 foreign born persons who definitely returned a foreign nationality and 46,283 others in whose cases the nationality information was omitted making a total of 228,266 for the two classes together exclusive of persons born at sea, 207,167 claimed to be residents in England and Wales and 21,099 were returned as visitors; 86.3 per cent. of the whole gave Europe as their birthplace, Russia, Poland and France heading the list of individual countries with totals between 50,000 and 20,000 each, and Italy and Germany with numbers in excess of 10,000. From the United States of America, the number, which contained a high proportion of visitors, was in the neighbourhood of 19,000. The numbers and the proportions per cent. of the total foreigners from the principal countries concerned are shewn in comparison with the figures of 1901 and 1911 in the following table:—


Comparison of the distribution of aliens with the position 10 years ago and the continuity of movement during the past and preceding intercensal periods have been greatly disturbed as regards European countries, which contribute approximately six-sevenths of the immigrant aliens, by the many changes of boundary made as a result of the war. The birthplace returns of 1921 have been classified, so far as the information available rendered it possible to do so, according to the constitution of the areas of the several countries in 1921, with the consequence that persons whose birthplaces were in any of the transferred areas like Alsace and Lorraine, Schleswig-Holstein (part), Eupen-Malmedy, the several portions of Poland, the Baltic countries, etc., may have been classified in one way in 1911 and in another in 1921. In a number of the replies where the country of birth was given but not the district or state, the assumption has had to be made that the actual place of birth was within the countries as now delimited.

With some exceptions the numbers born in the several foreign countries and tabulated as of other than British nationality are smaller than they were in 1911, the reductions being very considerable in the case of the late enemy countries. Thus foreigners born in Germany have been reduced to approximately one fourth of the corresponding 1911 figure, the numbers allotted to Austria are less than one sixth of what they were 10 years ago, and in respect of Hungary and Turkey similar large scale reductions are recorded but in respect of much smaller communities. On the other hand from Russia the large numerical decrease is not of the same relative significance having regard to the magnitude of the total immigrant population from that country and in respect of Poland the numbers have increased. From France and Italy the numbers are reduced, but in relation to the total alien population their positions are slightly improved. Belgians and citizens of the United States of America on the other hand return numbers and proportions which are greatly in excess of those of 1911.

(5) Local Distribution of Foreigners. —With some variation in the actual proportions, it will be seen from the following table that the distribution of foreigners within this country is similar in general incidence to that of British immigrants whether of colonial or of foreign birth. More than half of the total were enumerated in the Administrative County of London, and the remainder were located principally in the more prominent sea ports, in the suburban areas surrounding the metropolis, in the watering places on the south coast, in the university centres of Oxford and Cambridge and in a small number of inland industrial centres like Leeds, Manchester and Salford.


Within the Administrative County of London 119,466 foreigners of alien or unstated nationality were enumerated, or 52.3 per cent of the total in this class, and their distribution within the county suggests that the migration represented thereby is confined mainly to the two extreme types of social condition with but a sprinkling of the intermediate or middle-class element prevalent in the native population of this country.

The Borough of Stepney contained the largest number of aliens, both absolutely and relatively, with 37,260, representing over 30 per cent. of the aliens in the county and about 15 per cent. of the local population. Other Boroughs in which aliens were numerous are Westminster (10,555, or 7 per cent. of the Borough population), Holborn (4,161—10 per cent.), Bethnal Green (6,249—5 per cent.), St. Pancras (7,881—4 per cent.), Kensington (6,174—4 per cent.), St. Marylebone (4,822—5 per cent.), and Hackney (6,108—3 per cent.).

With so large a proportion of the total alien population enumerated in London, the numbers of the several individual nationalities will naturally be greatest as a rule in the metropolis; their representation throughout the remainder of England and Wales however varies considerably as will be seen from the following table which shews the localities in which the largest numbers of aliens from the principal foreign countries were enumerated, the total in England and Wales being shewn in antique type opposite the country of birth:—


(6) Sex, Age and Marital Condition of Foreigners. —Of the 228,266 foreign born persons of alien and unstated nationality, 128,481 were males and 99,785 females, males forming 56.3 per cent. of the foreign compared with 47.7 per cent of the general population. The corresponding male proportions of 1911 were 58.9 per cent. in the foreign and 48.4 per cent. in the general population. The sex proportions of the several nationalities represented varies considerably, males predominating in every case but that of France; among the principal nationalities (those of which there were upward of 10,000 persons) the proportions of males were as follows:—

Italy 66.7 per cent.
Germany 59.8 "
United States 54.9 "
Poland 52.3 "
Russia 51.7 "
France 38.1 "

The age, sex and marital condition distributions of foreigners are given in Table 48 of the General Tables Volume. The age distribution is peculiar, owing to the inevitable smallness of the numbers recorded at ages under 20, where the maximum groups are expected in a normal population. The reasons are more or less self-evident; the presence of young children must always tend to retard the movement of families, so that the bulk of immigrants will largely be restricted to adults; while the children of alien parents boom in this country will ipso facto be British subjects, and will not be scheduled with their parents in this classification. Of a total foreign population amounting to 6.1 per 1,000 of the general population the number at ages under 5 was only 0.6 per 1,000 of the general population at these ages; between 5 and 15 the proportion rose to 1.6 while for the succeeding age groups 15-45, 45-65, 65 and over, the corresponding proportions were 9.4, 10.4 and 8.4 in respect of males and 6.3, 7.0 and 5.8 in respect of females. The following table shews the details of the sex, age and marital condition distribution for all foreigners and for the principal nationalities.


(7) Occupations of Foreigners. —The occupations of foreign born persons of alien or unstated nationality resident in this country are dealt with in the section devoted to occupations (page 137).

(8) Persons Born at Sea. —Persons born at sea and enumerated in England and Wales numbered 5,651 or 15 per 100,000 of the total population, comparing with 6,805 or 19 per 100,000 in 1911. Of the total, of whom more than 99 per cent. were stated to be resident in this country, 57.6 per cent. were described as British by birth, 9.4 per cent. British by naturalization and in 2.0 per cent. of the cases a definite foreign nationality was returned. In the somewhat high proportion of 31.0 per cent. of the cases, the nationality statement was omitted and in view of the preponderance of British nationality amongst those who returned the information it may be inferred that a very large majority of the unstated nationalities were also those of British subjects.

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